Patriots: Players who can snag starting jobs after recent string of opt outs

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These New England Patriots players can snag starting jobs in 2020.

In the blink of an eye, the New England Patriots were down their starting inside linebacker, right tackle and safety as Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon and Patrick Chung — as well as three other players — announced their decision to sit out the 2020 season due to fears about playing amid the global pandemic.

While a wise decision by all parties, this is obviously a massive buzzkill for the upcoming campaign, as the Patriots, following the sheer roster turnover they watched unfold this offseason, really couldn’t afford another loss, let alone three of this magnitude. We all know that Bill Belichick is a mastermind when it comes to replacing starters, but not even he could have prepared to be blindsided like this right at the start of training camp.

This begs the obvious question of whether New England’s depth chart is deep enough to overcome the losses of these three stalwarts. As questions still abound, that didn’t stop us from identifying sleepers that could potentially nab a starting job this year.

Full disclosure: This list is entirely based off what the Patriots currently have at their disposal. They could obviously still sign reinforcements in free agency.

Patriots

Patriots OL Korey Cunningham (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

4. Korey Cunningham (RT)

Not many teams have the depth to replace a starting right tackle, but the lack of experience from the Patriots’ reserves is a major cause for concern. The two most obvious contenders to replace Cannon, who started 15 games and played 88% of the offensive snaps last year, are Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste.

The former came into the league as a seventh-round pick in 2018 and has played in just seven total games in his first two seasons. For context, six of those came with the Arizona Cardinals as a rookie, whereas just one came with New England last campaign. With that being said, he’s probably the betting favorite to win the job over Cajuste, a 2019 third-round selection who literally didn’t play a snap last year.

We don’t feel comfortable saying it, but we have to give the nod to Cunningham here. After all, minimal experience is better than no experience, especially without a preseason.

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